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A tray with a plate of cured salmon with dill and a few drink glasses.
Cured salmon
Salmon is served at almost all traditional holidays in Sweden, such as Christmas, Midsummer or Easter. How the salmon is cooked varies though - it can be cured, smoked or grilled for example. It is often served with schnapps, accompanied by a traditional drinking song.
Photo credit: Magnus Carlsson/

Cured salmon ('gravad lax') – recipe

Cured salmon, 'gravad lax' or 'gravlax', is a marinated salmon dish and along with smoked salmon it's hugely popular on the Swedish smorgasbord. It is often served with a mustard sauce called 'Hovmästarsås'.

Keep in mind that salmon should be frozen for 72 hours beforehand to kill any parasites. However, you can also cure it and freeze it afterwards. This is great if you are planning a big dinner and want to prepare a couple of days ahead. 

About 6-8 portions.


  • 1 kg side of salmon
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • Grated zest from 1 organic lemon


  1. Trim the salmon from the backbone (or ask your fishmonger to do this) so that you get 2 fillets. Mix sugar, salt, pepper and finely chopped dill. Rub the salmon fillets with the salt mixture and then put them together on top of each other so that the meat side meets the meat side. 
  2. Arrange them so that the narrow tail section meets the thicker neck section. That way, you get one evenly thick salmon package. Put the salmon in a plastic bag or cling film. Put a weight on the salmon (such as a milk package, a bag of potatoes or something else) and leave it in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Turn on the salmon package every now and then, and remember to put the weight back. 
  3. Remove the small bones from the salmon with forceps and cut each piece of filet into thin slices before serving. By cutting the cured salmon just before serving, you extend how long it lasts. It's also best to freeze the cured salmon when it's not in slices. 

The classic pairing

'Hovmästarsås' is a cold, emulsified sauce made of mustard, a neutral oil (rapeseed or sunflower), finely chopped dill and vinegar. The mustards are preferably a combination of the Swedish kind of mustard ('senap'), which is a bit sweet, and the more distinctively sharp and spicy French dijon. A trick from the Swedish masterchef Tommy Myllymäki is to add some muscovado sugar. Finish the sauce with a classic pinch of salt and ground black pepper.

Recipe by Lisa Lemke

Article sponsored by

EU and Swedish Board of Agriculture